Industry Insiders: Sebastian Puga, Velvet Revolver

It all started simply enough for Sebastian Puga. The Miami-born promoter was asked to host a weekly party at the Shore Club when he was still in college, a plum gig that enabled him to “drink for free with friends.” This led to an indie rock party called Revolver in downtown Miami, which garnered more than its share of A-listers. “One night P. Diddy showed up, so I must have been doing something right,” he says.

Stints at Rokbar and a partnership at Coco de Ville in the Gansevoort followed, as well as the Lazy Sunday Brazilian BBQ at the Standard Miami Beach. Its success brought Puga to the attention of the bigwigs at the Standard New York, who relocated him up north to work as the promotions director for Le Bain, the hotel’s rooftop bar known for its pretty patrons splashing around in the indoor hot tub – and perhaps the best place in the city to relax with a Belvedere martini and gaze at the skyline.

To be sure, it’s a glamorous job, but Puga puts in plenty of time getting the vibe just right, and he always stays grounded. “It’s an around-the-clock career, so work gets in the way of a ‘regular’ lifestyle,” he says. “And you’ve always got to treat people with respect, because nobody wants to do business with a jerk.”

4AM Tour Diary: DJ Sinatra Spends NYE 2011 in Miami

As a manager and partner at 4AM DJs, I’m constantly arranging performances, events, and photo shoots around the world. Every day, I get reports back from my DJs filled with the kind of wild adventures I rarely get to be a part of as a desk – rather than a disk – jockey. The people who flock to these stellar international events get to experience the end result of months of prep, but do they really know what a day in the life of a DJ is like? In this column, you’ll hear first-hand accounts of DJ war stories, with photos and videos from the world’s best to show for it. In this third 4AM DJ Tour Diary, you’ll read about DJ Sinatra‘s insane week leading up to New Year’s Eve in Miami. Yours truly, Adam Alpert.

Tuesday, Dec. 28, 2010: My lovely girlfriend Vanessa and I left the great blizzard of 2010 in NYC and headed to sunny South Beach for our NYE 2011 celebration. The driver picked us up at 8am to drive us to the airport. There was 30 inches of snow and the roads were terrible. A lot of flights were delayed, so we weren’t sure if we would even get out. When we got there, our flight was delayed until 2pm. What to do at the airport at 9 in the morning? The answer: Drink bloody marys! We must have had 3 or 4 during breakfast, and I couldn’t wait to get down to South Beach to ring in the New Year with my 4AM DJ family.

We headed over to our gate and there was my homie, DJ MOS. We hung out until we boarded the flight. We were lucky to be flying. When we touched down in Miami, it was cold but better than New York, so no complaining from us. My first night in Miami, I deejayed the ill Tuesday party at The Wall nightclub at the W South Beach, called “Favela Beach.” I was amped because I was DJing with a good friend of mine, DJ Ross One. The party was hosted by Tatanka, Paolo, Flip, Sebastian, Roy, Los, Navin Chatani, Karim Masri, and of course, Nicola Siervo. It was insane, packed wall-to-wall. Nicola was on the mic going nuts, and called out DJ Vice to come spin with us. We had a surprise DJ cipher with Vice, Ross, and myself. The energy in the room was next level, as we kicked off NYE week in style.

Wednesday, Dec. 29, 2010: I was exhausted from working and traveling. I really didn’t get much sleep, so I had to recharge my battery. That night, Vanessa and I hit up our favorite Mexican restaurant on Lincoln Road. After we ate, we met up with our buddy Jack Furious, who was down from New York. We rolled over to Coco de Ville were I DJed that night. We hung out with Sebastian, Jack, Iron Lyon, and Eric even came through – always a good venue, run by my buddies of OneFifty.

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Thursday, Dec. 30, 2010: One of my best friends, DJ Vitale, arrived, and we were ready to party. The weather was getting nice and we decided to go check out DJ Jacamino, who was spinning Derek & Daniel Koch of Dual Groupe’s “Day & Night” brunch party at Vita. We hung out for a little, had some laughs, and then went back to the hotel to get ready for another night of DJing! I was spinning at Louis at the Gansevoort South. I had never spun there before, so I was excited to go in. The room was packed and the energy was in the air. A few Patron’s later and the night was a blur. From what I remember, though, we had another great night.

Friday, Dec. 31, 2010: It was the night we all had been waiting for: The 4AM 2011 New Year’s Eve party at The Wall at the W South Beach with Drake performing. I was DJing the biggest stage of the year and couldn’t believe it. When Vanessa and I arrived, we were greeted by my manager at 4AM, Adam Alpert, and he walked us in straight to the red carpet. What seemed like a million photographers were shooting me from every angle. With flashing lights everywhere, I couldn’t have been more excited. Questions were being thrown at me, one after the other. It was amazing and fun and I just rolled with it. Vanessa was a pro and joined me for a few photos. We then headed to the 4AM DJs cabana and listened to my 4AM family member DJ Phresh, who was spinning by the pool. Fast forward to 10 minutes left in 2010, and Drake jumps on the table and drops “Runaway” and “B.M.F.” The place is going nuts. We saw so many people from New York and my Miami peeps, Mr. Mauricio and Raul. When the clock struck 12, I kissed my lady and we made a video to send to all our family and friends. We looked up, and Drake was performing right in front of us. Bottles were flowing. Then it was time for me to DJ. The place was going crazy and I jumped on the mic. I said something about 2011, I can’t remember, and the club erupted. The lighting was on point and the sound was great. The Wall is truly one of my favorite clubs. I will never forget this night.

Thanks to my 4AM team, Adam, and DJ Jus-Ske, who was spinning NYE in St. Barths and who we all missed. After my set was over, we went over to meet up with DJ Vitale, DJ Riz, DJ Reach, and Los. 2010 was over and the week was such a success. It was great to be able to share it with my 4AM family and all my other DJ brothers. This trip left me so inspired and I couldn’t wait to get back work.

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See other 4AM Tour Diaries here and here.

4AM DJ Tour Diary: DJ Price Spends Halloween in Miami

As a manager and partner at 4AM DJs, I’m constantly arranging performances, events, and photo shoots around the world. Every day, I get reports back from my DJs filled with the kind of wild adventures I rarely get to be a part of as a desk – rather than a disk – jockey. The people who flock to these stellar international events get to experience the end result of months of prep, but do they really know what a day in the life of a DJ is like? In this monthly column, you’ll hear first-hand accounts of DJ war stories, with photos and videos from the world’s best to show for it. In this second 4AM DJ Tour Diary, you’ll read about DJ Price’s insane Halloween weekend in Miami. Yours truly, Adam Alpert.

Miami has to be one of my favorite cities to play in. South Beach’s energy and excitement for music is among the best in the world. From the moment I walked off that plane and threw on my Ray Bans, I knew it was going to be a great weekend. I’ve been to Miami many times before, most recently this past year for the Winter Music Conference and the 4AM launch party at the Mondrian hotel. You can download our CD recorded live that night here. Also, I was excited to have just received my new indie house mix CD, Dynamics of Moving Bodies Volume 1, fresh of the press to bring with me to give out. I gave out over 500 copies in 4 nights. You can download it here.

This time around I had a full tour booked: 4 gigs in 4 nights. I landed Thursday, October 28th with my best friend and Reason business partner, Phil Bassis, and headed to our room at the Fontainebleau. I have nothing but good things to say about the Fontainebleau. My room was huge and the view was amazing. If you’re looking for a hotel in Miami that you won’t ever have to leave, this is the spot. I started the weekend off spinning at The Wall at the gorgeous W Hotel South Beach.

The club hasn’t even been open a year and they recently renovated it and re-arranged the layout. The new lay out is very conducive to dancing, and the new state-of-the-art DJ booth has been relocated front and center to have a great view of the room. One of my favorite design elements of the room was the custom designed crystal color changing disco ball in the center. That Thursday I was hired to DJ the after party for the launch of Lou La Vie’s Miami Premier Exotic cars. I played an open format set, ranging from hip-hop, rock, and house, and even sprinkled in some of my favorite indie, disco, and ‘80s tracks. The crowd was rocking way past 4am. Thanks to Navin Chatani for showing me a great time.

I headed back to the Fontainebleau for the next 24 hours. Spent the day by the beach, ran into the great hip-hop artist, Pitbull, went jet skiing, sorted through some new music, and had dinner at Chef Scott Conant’s Scarpetta inside the hotel. When we walked into LIV, we knew Halloween had officially started. They transformed the 30,000 square feet into an Alice in Wonderland-themed adult playground. Bartenders were dressed as Mad Hatters, and waitresses like Alice. Someone was running around in a giant rabbit costume. My manager/mentor DJ Jus-Ske had requested that I open and close for him, knowing that I would be in Miami.

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LIV is undoubtedly one of the largest rooms in the country, and was formally an ice skating rink in the Fontainebleau. It’s a nightclub that has the feeling of an arena. The DJ booth is massive, with two banquets on each side, and 2×4 turntables set up (2 mixers, 4 turntables). The club is busy by midnight and you’ve got to keep the energy up. I warmed the night up nicely with an assortment of hip-hop, rock, and house records. Some of my favorite’s of my set were Tinie Tempah’s “Pass Out,” Auburn’s “La La La,” “XXXO” from M.I.A., the new Ting Ting’s single “Hands,” Duck Sauce’s crossover hit “Barbara Streisand,” and I even threw in “Samba De Janeiro” and some Brazilian records to spice it up. The room was slammed, and dancers and performers were dressed in costumes, bouncing around throughout the night. I turned around at one point and Gumby & Pokey were jumping on the banquets behind me. Out in the middle of the room Marty McFly was holding a magnum bottle of Belvedere in the air.

Jus-Ske came on at around 1, and proceeded to tear it down flawlessly. Jus is one of my favorite DJs and crowds love him wherever he goes. In Miami, if you’re a good DJ, the clubs won’t close until 5 a.m. Jus let me finish them off with enough time to still play some high energy joints, check out this short video. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1OmoOj9LsLQ&feature=email

We woke up the next day and took it easy around the hotel. My manager, Adam Alpert from 4AM, arranged VIP tickets for us to go to the Miami Masquerade Motel featuring the Swedish House Mafia, billed as one of the largest Halloween parties in the country in a 55,000 square foot tent. The Masquerade Motel has been making waves over the summer at Pacha Ibiza as the go-to party every Monday night. They have been mixing talents with an assortment of costumed dancers and performers, and a mind-bending array of visual effects.

The party was amazing. I’ve never seen so many people in unison, jumping around and enjoying the music simultaneously. Some of the highlights of the night was when the trio played their hit “One,” and without a doubt Steve Angello’s “Knas.” After the show, I ran to my gig at Opium Group’s Louis nightclub inside the Gansevoort South hotel. We headed there around 12:30 a.m., as club-goers in costume were pilling in. Halloween in New York is always impressive, but I have to say the costumes in Miami were well-thought out and fun. Louis is a great nightclub experience. Designed like a royal Parisian palace on an acid trip, it’s one of the most exciting backdrops for a Halloween party I could imagine. One of the highlights of the night was when a little person dressed as Napoleon started dancing around on top of the bar and sprayed the crowd with a fire extinguisher. I couldn’t have asked for a better Halloween crowd.

Sunday’s weather was a bit overcast, so we headed to South Beach to check out some shops. We had lunch at La Sandwicherie, one of my favorite lunch spots in South Beach. I recommend the Pate sandwich on a croissant. We checked out the Versace mansion and even some retail, which has gotten better recently with shops including Barney’s and Polo Ralph Lauren within walking distance of each other. A trip to Miami wouldn’t be complete without paella, so we had to get that for dinner. Sunday was October 31st, and I was going to DJ at Coco de Ville, also at the Gansevoort South hotel. The crew at the Coco DeVille is great. Roy Alpert, Tatanka Guerrero, Paulo Cardoso, and Sebastian Puga run the best intimate, dance lounge in the city. I have to say Tatanka and friends had the best costumes I’d seen all weekend as Chilean Miners, including someone dressed as the actual mine hatch and a Spanish speaking reporter.

My set at Coco DeVille was great and included a lot of New York flare: ‘90s hip-hop, reggae, baile funk, rock, and house. Highlights of the night include Kanye West’s new hit “Runaway,” “Fancy” from Drake and Swizz Beatz, and one of my all time favorites, “Juicy,” by Notorious BIG. We crawled out of there around 5, which concluded a very successful Halloween 2010 Miami tour. We headed back to NYC the next day ready for another great week in the greatest city in the world.

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For more info on DJ Price go here.

Industry Insiders: Jonathan Segal, #1 at The One Group

With hits like STK, One, Kiss & Fly, Coco de Ville, and Tenjune in his portfolio, the CEO of The One Group dishes on the bar/restaurant prototype, banking big in difficult times, and a newfound affection for live music.

Favorite restaurants? There was a restaurant called Baoli in Cannes that was probably one of my favorite restaurants, and was also a major inspirational restaurant for me in what we started to do here in America. In terms of Italian, I like Da Silvano in New York. I love my own restaurants— does that count?

Of course. Which is your favorite? My favorite for vibe and energy is probably One. And for a very cool scene is STK.

What’s your guiltiest pleasure? Wow where do I start? I would think eating, and having that bread roll before dinner. I should never have it because afterwards, I’m completely full, but I usually end up going to dinner so hungry that I just eat anything that’s put in front of me.

What’s on your radar for 2009? The STK in Miami is opening soon, right? It is under construction but will be open by April. That will open with a 7,000-square-foot restaurant with a 2,000-square-foot lounge adjacent to it, called Coco de Ville. And that’s pretty much how we operate our restaurants 9 times out of 10, we’ll put a lounge or a bar adjacent to or in the same infrastructure as the restaurant. Kind of a trademark of ours.

Aside from the obvious convenience factor of that, what are your other motivations for building adjacent bars and restaurants? If you look at the setup for all the things that we’ve created or we’re associated with, we try to create environments that are multi-purpose venues. For example, if you go to STK in New York, you can go to Tenjune, and then we’re building a rooftop restaurant in the Meatpacking District on that building. If you go to LA, you can come to STK and Coco de Ville, and we are building another bar adjacent to that. The real purpose is to give multiple reasons for people to visit our venues, and then they’ll go to one of those venues, or turn to eat at one or drink at another, and it sort of gives us a better ownership of the clients and creates an overall better experience. Populating close areas with mass entertainment is a really good way to secure continuation of revenue and also continuation of a good time.

When will the rooftop at STK New York open? We are going through the planning process and applications now. I would hope to get it open for this season. New Yorkers love outdoor dining, and we just can’t get enough of it. We have beautiful views over the elevated park out to the Hudson, and it’s going to be a very exciting project.

STK is one of my favorites. Oh thank you very much. It was built with you in mind— a girl who cares.

Who are two people in the hospitality industry that you look up to or two of your industry icons? One of them would be Steve Hanson. I think his attention to detail and his focus on guest service and guest experience is really something. Another person is an old school guy, and that’s Peter Morton, the founder of Hard Rock. They both have completely different operational rationales. Both were truly successful. Steve Hanson operates like the One Group. He’ll operate multiple venues with different styles of food, of design and decor, but with a common thread being that of procedure, service, routine, and structure. Peter Morton, on the other hand, went the other way, and he just focused on one single offering— the Hard Rock. That was the only thing he was really interested in, and he built a great company and just focused on that one product. I’ve had many conversations with Peter Morton about the importance of focus and attention, and I just build a different business. So what’s interesting is that the two people that I think are iconic in our industry have two completely opposite operational rationales.

What are some positive trends that you’ve seen recently in the hospitality industry? For an entrepreneur, and for someone who has confidence in their operation and in the generality of the economy— it’s going to come back. Certainly in my life and business, which I am embarrassed to say is over 30 years, there’s never been a better opportunity to expand a company. And I’m probably one of the few people that is prepared to stand up and say that. I tend to have a much greater degree of confidence in the public and in their ability to work their way through the economy than I probably have in the government to make it happen. And I think hospitality is something that is susceptible to recession, but if one’s clever in the way one markets and the way one positions their product, then I think you can put a buffer up against the recession.

What’s something that people might not know about you? Just say, “He smiled happily.” And then sunk into a corner. I am slightly dyslexic, and not a lot of people know that. And yet I can absolutely read a legal contract, but I can’t read a book. I can play the piano, but I cannot read music. I also live for skiing.

What’s something on your radar right now? Live music. Over Christmas, I went to see Kid Rock play at a party. And I’ve never liked Kid Rock’s music, but I thought he was unbelievable in concert. And I’m watching him perform at this party, and I realized it’s more that you have to experience something in order to appreciate it. I would say that I definitely want to go see more live entertainment. I’ve been involved in live entertainment venues in the past. In one company, we operated more than five cabaret halls with live music, dancers, and magicians. It’s one of those things that if I could find more time, I could definitely go to concerts more. Even to see concerts that didn’t necessarily appeal to me, just to see if my view changes having seen them perform live.

What are you doing tonight? I am going to STK LA with my girlfriend. She has a company called Omnipeace that gives their money to build schools in Africa and helps finance food for villages. I try to get people to pay me for food, and she gives food away.

Ne-Yo on Curating Artistry & Loving Michael Bolton

Ne-Yo is a busy man, and for the prodigious singer/songwriter, Labor Day is just another Monday. He’s busy writing songs for New Kids on the Block, Monica, and Michael Bolton. Yep — the man who’s shaking up dance floors with “Closer” is working with flaxen-haired, saxy-tooting Michael Bolton. Plus, he’s busy promoting his new album Year of the Gentleman. But regardless of his hectic schedule, the suave crooner set aside some time (10 minutes!) to chat about his cool people, romance, and yet another venture he’s undertaken: curating Hennessy Artistry.

What’s up with you and NKOTB? You know what’s cool. They’re New Kids on the Block, not old guys trying to bring it back. They still have their swag about them. It’s a different swag from when they were younger but they still swag all the same. They definitely look like they know what they’re doing.

Tell me about the song you wrote for them, “Single.” Basically it’s for all the single ladies in the club who are arguing with their boyfriends. What I’m saying is that, for the next three and a half minutes, which is how long the song is, just pretend that I’m your boyfriend. So if you’re single, you don’t have to be tonight. I’ll be your boyfriend, or at least until the song ends.

How do you come up with your ideas? I don’t know. It’s the way that I think. I’m somewhat of a romantic.

What’s the most romantic thing you’ve ever done for somebody? I had a girlfriend, and Valentine’s Day came around. I didn’t have any money, no money for anything except for what you can buy at 7-Eleven. Her favorite candy was peanut M&Ms, so I bought a huge bag, gave her that, and made her a card. What I did was I took the colors of the M&Ms, and I wrote a little poem about every color — like yellow matches your hair, red represents that, and she really dug it.

That is adorable and very, very romantic. Thank you very much. It’s not about the quantity. It’s not about how much you do, it’s about what you do.

I’ve actually met you before, at the Wrigley’s Spearmint Press Conference. Which one were you?

Well, I know you kind of run the line, so I doubt you remember me. I was the petite Filipino at the very end. Did you smile at me?

Probably. Who doesn’t smile at you? How is Big Red coming along? It was cool. All I did at the press conference was go onstage and introduce the jingle that I wrote, and everyone was like, “Oh you did a great job!” A great job? I didn’t do anything!’ Did you stick around for the performance?

I did watch the show, and I have a funny story I can tell you later on if you have time. It was a lot of fun and exciting to meet you, Chris Brown, and Julianne Hough. She’s so cute with her cowboy boots and whatnot. Yeah, she’s cool people.

Who are the cool people you’re hanging out with these days? I went to see Janelle Monet in LA at the Viper Room with Brandon T. Jackson, who’s in the Tropic Thunder movie. Later on that night, we hung out with Diddy at Coco de Ville. I guess that’s the spot to go out in LA now, or that’s what they told me. I just got out of the studio with Monica, she’s working on a new album. I think her and Keyshia Cole are going to do something together. Just recently, I’ve been in touch with Michael Bolton of all people.

Michael Bolton?! Michael Bolton. And you know what? He’s really, really cool and down to earth. I expected him to be otherwise. When you work with people who have been in the game for a while, you’ve got to grade them on a curve. They’ve been in the game for so long that they expect certain treatment. But he was a regular person.

Tell me a little bit about Hennessy Artistry and how you got involved with the project. Hennessy is one of the coolest cognacs out there because you can go to dinner and find it there, or you can go to a club and find it there too. It’s a cognac that knows how to toe the line: It’s diverse. My album, Year of the Gentleman, is all about the diversities of a gentleman. Being that cat who can party with anybody and everybody. It just makes perfect sense to take Hennessy and Ne-Yo and put us together. It’s going to be a cool situation.

And you’re curating, as in choosing the performers? To a degree, yes.

Can you describe the vibe? There’s no specific style of music we wanted to go with. Since Hennessy represents diversity, we needed the selection to be diverse. So we have a rock band, rappers, singers, R&B, a little bit of everything.

Will you be performing or are you just curating? I may get up there and do a couple of cuts. Depends on how good I feel that night. We’ll see what happens.

New LA Guide Additions: Medusa Lounge, Coco de Ville, Zooma Sushi

imageIn Los Angeles, check out new listings for Medusa Lounge (rocking out amongst the gargoyles), Coco de Ville (super-tight room attached to STK restaurant), and Zooma Sushi (hidden, beachy sushi in Malibu). For full Los Angeles listings, see our restaurant guide and nightlife guide.